There’s something wonderfully satisfying about taking leftovers, pantry staples, and any miscellaneous ingredients you may have on hand, combining them in an oven-safe dish, topping them with cheese and/or bread crumbs, and baking them to golden perfection. In the end, you have made something far greater than the sum of its parts: a warm, comforting casserole. While there’s no set definition as to what a casserole is, most will agree on the oven-baked-dish-that-elevates-common-ingredients definition.
Casserole is a French word for “pot” or “pan” and it refers not only to these mixed-ingredient, one-dish meals, but also the vessel they are cooked in; a casserole is a type of cooking pan. The idea of casseroles dates back as far as the thirteenth century, but it wasn’t until the 1900s that they started to gain widespread popularity. The scarcity of food (and rationing) during the World Wars, the invention of canned foods (especially soup), and the changing role of women in society as they joined the workforce all contributed to the success of these convenient and economical one-dish meals. By the middle of the twentieth century, the casserole craze was in full swing.
Casseroles are still popular today for many of the same reasons; most are easy to make, cost very little to produce, and can be made ahead and stored away for busy nights. And, despite the misconception that casseroles are cold-weather meals best eaten during the fall and winter, there are a number of light, fresh casseroles full of spring and summer produce.
We’ve rounded up 101 essential casseroles to fit any taste, lifestyle, occasion, or budget. This list is in no way exhaustive and is not ranked. Instead, we’ve collected a few standout casserole recipes in a number of categories like vegetarian casseroles, dessert casseroles, and summer casseroles. Whether you’re looking for a bean casserole or a chicken casserole, we’ve got a few choices for you. Plus, we’ve got expert tips for making casseroles in advance from expert Betty Rosbottom, author of Sunday Casseroles: Complete Comfort in One Dish.
Betty’s Make-Ahead and Freezing Guidelines
• To bake a casserole ahead of time, cool completely, and then cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
• To freeze a casserole, you can either assemble and freeze or bake and freeze, depending on the recipe. Either way, cool completely and cover tightly with plastic wrap, and then with foil. Add a label with the name of the recipe and the date. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator.
• Whether refrigerated or frozen, bring a casserole to room temperature 30 minutes to 1 hour (but no longer) before baking or reheating. You may need to add extra baking time when a dish has been refrigerated.
• Reheat casseroles in a moderate (around 350 degrees F) oven, covered, so that they do not dry out on the second go-round. If a casserole seems to be dry, you can stir in a little more of the liquid that was called for in the recipe. Reheating in a microwave will warm the food but will also soften crispy toppings.
Slow Cooker Chicken Casserole
(Credit: Bush's Beans)
This casserole takes time — three hours in the slow cooker — but if you plan ahead, you can truly set it and forget about it. That is, until the delicious aroma of thyme and rosemary fills your house!
Click here for the recipe.
Nacho Chicken Casserole
(Credit: Flickr/Personal Creations)
This is truly one of the easiest casseroles you can make; after combining lots of flavorful Tex-Mex ingredients like tortilla chips, green chili peppers, and sour cream, top the casserole with shredded cheese and bake until bubbly and delicious.
Click here for the recipe.
101 Essential Casseroles
7. Oven Paella
28. Veggie Cassoulet
43. Noodle Kugel
64. Peach Crisp
68. Blueberry Crisp
Casseroles for Fall
Casseroles for Winter
84. Potato Gratin
87. Vegan Lasagna
Casseroles for Spring
90. Carrot Casserole
Casseroles for Summer
95. Corn Casserole
98. Taco Casserole
Kristie Collado is The Daily Meal’s Cook Editor. Follow her on Twitter @KColladoCook.